Professional Gardener - Adaptable schedule

Flexible work schedule The weather over the next few months can be cruel or kind for gardeners. Work lists need to be as flexible as possible so that the better days can be spent outdoors while some work is retained in the greenhouse, shed or office for the more monsoon- and blizzard-like conditions.

Tidy-up and repair Continue tidying-up around the garden and practice good hygiene by washing pots and trays before storing them for the winter. Clean and preserve the ends of stakes and canes before storing. Gardens that have closed to the public for the winter should consider repairing picnic benches, seats, bins and other items of garden furniture, including bird-nesting boxes. Such a task is often welcomed on the wetter, colder days if it can be done undercover. It is also a good time to inspect fences and walls with a view to carrying out any maintenance work over the winter period. Timbers such as fence posts and down posts of pergolas should be treated or replaced if necessary.

Irrigation equipment Do not leave hosepipes out when temperatures are likely to fall to freezing and below. Drain down any pipes that may be subjected to freezing temperatures, not forgetting any lawn and border sprinkler systems. Check insulation on pipework in cool and unheated greenhouses or conservatories.

Lawns To avoid disease, remove and compost leaves from ornamental lawns before they build up in any great volume. Many can be collected while mowing on drier days, but remember to adjust the cutting height so the grass is left longer as light levels fall. Ornamental lawns can be cut at around 12mm from now on but really fine lawns can be cut a little lower — 10mm. General lawns are best left at 18mm and less formal amenity grass at 45-50mm.

Flower garden Finish planting tulip bulbs this week. Continue lifting and dividing herbaceous plants. Lift dahlias for storage when frost has blackened foliage. Protect tender plants from the weather.

Walled garden Start winter pruning apples, pears, gooseberries and redcurrants. Plant out new fruit trees and bushes. Cultivate vegetable ground as it becomes cleared.

Greenhouse and conservatory Heat when necessary but good air circulation is also essential. Take every opportunity to ventilate greenhouses and conservatories when weather and temperature permit. Water indoor plants and displays more carefully. Begin pruning indoor vines.

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